At the time, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series was still (or back?) at the top of the bestseller lists. I'd seen in an interview that she'd mentioned writing query letters and sending them to agents, so I went to her website to find out more. There, I read that she'd learned about the submissions process from author Janet Evanovich's website, so that's where I went next. That eventually led me to the prolific and incredibly helpful blog of literary agent Kristin Nelson, Pub Rants. It contains a feast of information on just about every aspect of the process, and after devouring that, I started clicking the links she had listed on the side of her page, leading me deeper and deeper into the world of author, agent, and editor blogs.
It's amazing to see how generous the literary community is, and thanks to that, I've grown so much in my understanding of the publishing business and in my knowledge of the craft of writing. I've also written (and revised and revised and revised!) another book. This one may actually be worth something.
I learned that the first step toward becoming a traditionally published author is writing a good query letter, and it's not easy. In fact, in spite of the countless blog posts and articles I've read on the subject and all the incarnations my own query letter has gone through, I still don't think I had quite grasped it until recently.
I must be an auditory learner, because what finally got through to me was taking part in a webinar on the topic, given by Sara Megibow, another successful agent with the Nelson Literary Agency. Natural, good-natured, and plain-spoken, Sara explained exactly what matters in a query, what agents do and don't want to see, and she read and evaluated letters sent in by participants in the real-time webinar (I found the archived version later, unfortunately, and settled for watching it after the fact). She also answered emailed questions from participants, and the end result for me was the proverbial lightbulb switching on.
The webinar was presented by Writers Digest, and because I'm nothing if not thorough, I signed up for another one, this one given by agent Kathleen Ortiz of Nancy Coffey Literary. She was fun to listen to, has a great personality, and was also really helpful. Though both webinars contained some information I'd read before, some of it was new, and all of it was enhanced by actually hearing the agents share their perspectives.
I would have paid the live webinar fee of $89 if I'd had the chance (it included some feedback on each query from the agent), but because I found them later in their archived form, I paid $29 for each, which seems like nothing compared to the value of the help I received. I'm not saving anything if I'm spending my writing time toiling in confusion on my query, making mistakes that will take my letter (and my manuscript) out of consideration and send it to the trash bin of an agent's email file.
Writers Digest offers a new webinar each Thursday on some aspect of writing and publishing, all presented by people who know what they're talking about: agents, editors, authors. Maybe one will give you that "aha" moment you've been needing, too. Good luck and keep writing!